Cops & Courts – November 24, 2023

Rape Suspect Apprehended

OCEAN CITY – Three weeks after eluding extradition in Pennsylvania, a New Jersey man is in custody facing local rape and assault charges.

After an extensive investigation into an August incident in the resort, the Ocean City Police Department Major Crimes Division charged Adrian Castaneda Sanchez, 38, of Pennsville, N.J., with two counts of first-degree rape, two counts of second-degree rape, third-degree sex offense, three counts of fourth-degree sexual contact and two counts of second-degree assault. Sanchez was indicted by a Worcester County Circuit Grand Jury and a warrant for his arrest issued.

In October, detectives traveled to New Jersey to execute the arrest warrant. It was learned Castaneda Sanchez was out of town and agreed to meet with detectives on Halloween. Instead, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers arrested Sanchez at the Philadelphia International Airport attempting to board a flight to Cancun, Mexico. Castaneda Sanchez was turned over to the Philadelphia Police Department to initiate extradition back to Maryland. However, Castaneda Sanchez was released from custody in Pennsylvania after posting $30,000 bail. Therefore, the Ocean City arrest warrant remained active.

According to Ocean City Police Deputy Communications Manager Ashley Miller, the Ocean City Police Department then partnered with the Maryland State Apprehension Team to locate Castaneda Sanchez. Miller reported last Friday Castaneda Sanchez turned himself into the Maryland State Police at the Frederick barrack on Nov. 13. Castaneda Sanchez has been returned to Worcester County to face the charges.


Arrests After Drug Probe

POCOMOKE – Local authorities announced this week the arrest of eight drug dealers because of a recent undercover operation.

“Over the last several months, members of the Worcester County Criminal Enforcement Team conducted a long-term drug distribution investigation in the Pocomoke area,” read a press release from the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office. “This covert investigation was initiated as a result of an increase in overdoses and several citizens contacting law enforcement about suspected drug activity in their community. At the conclusion of this investigation, the facts were presented to the Worcester County Grand Jury who indicted [multiple individuals].”

Arrested and charged were Gionni Murph, 25, narcotic production equipment and cocaine possession; Jacolby Roberts, 33, cocaine distribution, three counts of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and cocaine possession; Devin Bryant, 34, cocaine distribution and cocaine possession; Michelle Dryden, 53, cocaine distribution and cocaine possession; Darron Pittman, 22, possession with intent to distribute cocaine, cocaine possession and possession of CDS manufacturing equipment; Curtis Schoolfield, 45, possession with intent to distribute cocaine, cocaine possession and two counts of possession of CDS manufacturing equipment; Andrew Miller, 34, cocaine distribution and cocaine possession; and Loynial Sturgis, 44, three counts of cocaine distribution and three counts of cocaine possession.

“We will continue to apprehend and hold those accountable who try to poison our communities in Worcester County,” said Sheriff Matt Crisafulli. “The Worcester County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Enforcement Team was assisted by the Worcester County States Attorney’s Office, Eastern Shore Information Center, Washington-Baltimore HIDTA and The Governor’s Office of Crime Prevention, Youth, and Victim Services provides grant funding and strategic support to MCIN member sites to identify, disrupt, and dismantle criminal organizations through interagency collaboration.”

The arrests were part of the investigation that also on Sept. 21 resulted in the arrest of three individuals on drug and weapon charges. In that probe, members of the Worcester County Criminal Enforcement Team successfully concluded a firearm and controlled dangerous substance investigation involving Jael Ghent, 21, Maquis Moorse, 21, and Naji Hassan El, 20.

As a result of this investigation, a search and seizure warrant was authorized for a residence on Short Street in Pocomoke and a residence located on Bonneville Avenue. Members of the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Enforcement Team were assisted during the execution of these two search and seizure warrants by the Ocean City Police Department and the Pocomoke City Police Department. As a result of these search and seizure warrants, investigators located a total of four handguns, one being converted to fully automatic along with one AR style rifle, which was reported stolen during a previous residential burglary. Additional evidence was located to indicate the distribution of cocaine which included the seizure of approximately 15 grams of cocaine and 3.5 grams of crack cocaine.

“I want to commend the investigators in this investigation and thank those assisting agencies. The Worcester County Sheriff’s Office will continue to root out those who do evil in our communities,” Crisafulli said.

According to Crisafulli, the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Enforcement Team was assisted by the Worcester County Sheriff’s Tactical Armed Response Team, Ocean City Police Department’s QRT, Worcester County States Attorney’s Office, Eastern Shore Information Center, and Washington-Baltimore HIDTA.

Worcester County Sheriff’s Office reminds the public it has an app that can be downloaded for free on IOS and Android where residents can submit tips to law enforcement anonymously.


Arrest On Burglary Charges

OCEAN CITY – A man wanted on burglary charges was apprehended after police located him squatting in an apartment without permission.

On Nov. 16, an Ocean City police officer on unmarked vehicle patrol observed a wanted man, Justus Belk, 25, of Ocean City, climbing a building’s stairs on 2nd Street and Philadelphia Avenue. Police noted there were two active arrest warrants for Belk on burglary charges.

When police knocked on the door of the unit he entered, Belk opened the door and began to withdraw back into the apartment. The responding officer grabbed Belk to prevent a barricade situation inside the unit. Once outside the unit, Belk refused to lay on the ground despite multiple instructions from the officer who pointed a Taser at him to gain compliance. As Belk began to lower his knees to comply, he “intentionally jumped over the railing and off of the balcony,” according to the police report.

Belk was able to flee the scene out of view. Additional police units were alerted and Belk was eventually spotting fleeing on foot through multiple businesses, a condominium parking lot and a church with no trespassing signs. Police caught up to Belk on Washington Lane and 4th Street and arrested him at Taser point. Belk refused to answer police questions after being apprehended.

Police contacted the apartment owner who said he did not Belk and nobody had permission to be in his unit. Police inferred Belk broke into the unit and using the electricity supplied to the unit.

In total, Belk was charged with breaking and entering, theft value less than $100 for stealing electricity, resisting/interfering with arrest, making a false statement to police, fourth-degree burglary and trespassing. The police report noted Belk as a flight risk, a local homeless man and “has been known to locate police officer’s residences and appear at those residences without being involved,” according to the police report.


Aggravated Animal Cruelty

POCOMOKE – Felony animal abuse charges have been filed against two county residents.

On Oct. 2, Worcester County Animal Control responded to a residence on Bonneville Avenue in Pocomoke for an animal complaint. During the investigation, Animal Control officers immediately located two dogs on the front porch in a crate, one of whom was deceased. While on the front porch, officers also observed evidence of other dogs being neglected. Residents Kierra Sturgis, 31, and Lemond Williams, 47, refused to meet with Animal Control officers on scene. With the assistance of the Worcester County Bureau of Investigation, a search and seizure warrant was secured for the residence. Upon entry, two more dogs were located inside the residence and observed to be emaciated and in poor condition, along with no food or water. Animal Control officers seized the two additional dogs. All the dogs are currently in the custody of Worcester County Animal Control and are being treated by a local veterinarian.

Sturgis and Williams, both of Pocomoke, were each charged each with 36 counts of animal cruelty and animal neglect charges, four of these charges being felony aggravated animal cruelty. Both Sturgis and Williams were held without bond awaiting trial.


Squaring Off With Cop

OCEAN CITY – A local man is facing a second-degree assault charge after striking an officer.

On Nov. 17, Ocean City police officers were alerted to a fight in progress on the Boardwalk at Caroline Street. Dispatchers relayed to police the caller reported two men actively punching each other over a drug dispute. When police arrived, Alan Stewart, 41, of Ocean City, was shirtless standing over a man who was motionless.

When Stewart would not back away from the man on the ground and appeared to be leaning toward him again, the responding officer placed his hand on Stewart’s chest. Stewart then raised his right hand and smacked the officer’s arm, according to the police report.

Stewart then assumed what the officer determined as a “pre-fight” stance. The officer noted in his report he believed he was about to be assaulted so he armed his Taser and pointed it at Stewart, who then complied and put this hands behind his back for arrest.